Reporting Nursing Home Abuse
February 14th, 2012
Abuse of the elderly in long term care facilities such as nursing homes is a serious problem affecting thousands yearly. From 1996-2000, there were over 72,000 complaints of abuse or neglect in nursing homes nationwide according to the national service that logs these reports for the government. Neglect generally means the failure to care for a person which results in pain or harmful after effects. Abuse generally means that intentional pain or harm was caused and can be physical as well as sexual abuse. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 was passed to ensure that residents in nursing homes did not decline in health as a result of the care they received. Part of this act includes the right of a nursing home resident to complain of mistreatment. This ensures that residents are protected, and that those committing these acts will be punished. The right to complain also keeps a higher standard for nursing homes to keep across the nation.
According to the NCCHR, a not-for profit coalition that looks to protect long-term care resident?s rights, the right to complain can mean a few different things. It can mean that the resident has the right to complain directly to staff and administrators in the facility without fear of reprisal or backlash, and that these complaints will be taken seriously with efforts to resolve the problems. It can also mean that the resident of the facility may complain to the ombudsman program. Ombudsman programs exist at the state and federal level and are citizen representatives whose job it is to hear and address complaints. The resident may also complain to the local or state agency which is in charge of licensing and certifying such facilities. Many states also have adult protective services departments, which will take and investigate claims of abuse or neglect. It is also important to note that a resident always has the option of calling the local police or state law enforcement. A useful resource in determining who to report nursing home abuse to is the National Center on Elder Abuse, which part of the U.S. Administration on Aging. Their website can be found at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/.
If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, it is important that you report the allegation to one of the agencies listed above immediately. The longer the abuse goes unreported, the more the pain and suffering is likely to continue. It is important to write everything down, to be specific about people, times, and places, and to keep a copy of the report. When writing down the people involved, some things to think about are who the victim is (including their age and address), the name of the nursing home, the people responsible for the residents care, as well the person who was allegedly responsible for the abuse or neglect. When recording what happened, it is important to identify not only the type of abuse or neglect, but also the extent of the damage or harm done. Times and dates are another detail to consider when making a report. The key here is detail. The more detailed a report, the quicker the problem can be addressed, and hopefully fixed.
After filing a report with one of the many agencies that can help, it is important to follow up on the report. If you are not the victim, but a friend or family member, it is best to find out if the abuse or neglect is no longer happening. Any reports that can be obtained showing what actions were taken against the facility or the nursing home should also be obtained for the victim?s records. Usually these types of reports can be found with whatever state board is in charge of licensing or certifying long-term care facilities.
Remember, the most important aspects of filing complaints are that any further harm can come to a stop, and the more detailed the report, the quicker action may be taken. In cases involving nursing home abuse or neglect, both criminal and civil action may be sought. The person committing the abuse or neglect will likely face criminal charges from the state, but the facilities owners and operators may also face civil penalties for that damage caused to the resident.
Source: National Center on Elder Abuse, Administration on Aging http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/
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